This Winter Session, I took a class called ‘Short Story Worlds.’ The task was to choose one of a selection of short science fiction stories and flesh out its fictional world, focusing on key issues. A Pail of Air (Wikipedia summary) is set in a future in which the Earth is ripped away from the sun by a massive dark star, and in the frozen vastness of space, the atmosphere precipitates out, leaving the planet coated in layers of oxygen and nitrogen snow. The main characters are a small family who have survived in a makeshift hut, melting oxygen on a fire. They think they’re the only ones left alive, but in the end they are discovered by scouts from Los Alamos. The human race, far from dead, has retreated into nuclear-powered compounds around the globe. But are they truly at peace in a world where even air is a limited resource? I propose a sequel, in which the son of the original family leaves to discover the wonders of the human race… and ends up discovering some of its horrors.
UPDATE: You can now play a text-based adventure game based on this project, Pailer Air.